Coronavirus anxiety

This pandemic is seriously messing with our heads. The fear and uncertainty. The constant doomsday data. The sense of loss. Our daily routine out of whack. Every day blends into the next.

Faces covered in masks makes the world feel like we’re facing the end-of-times. Although our rational mind knows that this too shall pass, nothing feels rational right now.

This morning I saw a woman in her 60’s walking her dog across the street from my house. She had a mask on and was at least 20 feet away.

As she walked by she kept her head down. I was just about to say hello but I could tell by how fast and focused she walked that she didn’t want to interact. It was almost as if she thought that if she caught my eye this might encourage me to ignore social distancing and mosey on over for a chat.

But this hasn’t been most of my experience. If anything neighbors and strangers are even friendlier (from a distance). Yet it struck me that this woman was probably so genuinely terrified of the possibility that I might get too close that she panicked and averted her eyes.

It’s all very unsettling. Basic civility replaced by fear.

So until this nightmare is over what little things can we do to feel better?

First, limit how much time you spend listening to the news. And make sure what news you do follow is accurate. Steer clear of obsessing over unsubstantiated rumors.

And — make it a habit to do these things as often as possible:

Get grounded

Heh? All this means is to walk barefoot outside in the grass (or sand or dirt) for a few minutes a day.

I know this probably sounds very woo-hoo. But besides the pure joy of being outdoors there’s science behind the health benefits of walking barefoot, otherwise known as “grounding” or “earthing.”

Here’s why: When you walk barefoot on porous surfaces (dirt, sand) you connect to the Earth’s vast supply of electrons. This in turn creates physical changes in the body. Grounding has been shown to improve sleep, pain and stress.

Emerging scientific research has revealed a surprisingly positive and overlooked environmental factor on health: direct physical contact with the vast supply of electrons on the surface of the Earth. Modern lifestyle separates humans from such contact. The research suggests that this disconnect may be a major contributor to physiological dysfunction and unwellness.

Chevalier, G., Sinatra, S. T., Oschman, J. L., Sokal, K., & Sokal, P. (2012). Earthing: health implications of reconnecting the human body to the Earth’s surface electrons. Journal of environmental and public health.

So take a few minutes every day to shuffle barefoot through your grass. Don’t worry if you look ridiculous. Your neighbors just might want to join you (from their own yard).

(For more on the benefits of grounding/earthing.)

Get a little sunshine

You know how you feel blissed when you lay in the sun? Well it’s not just the soothing radiant warmth. Sunshine actually boosts mood. I’m not suggesting you bask for hours. But if possible, get a few rays on your arms and legs every day.

It turns out low levels of the brain chemical serotonin (involved in mood, focus and sleep) have been associated with low sun exposure. The right balance of sun exposure (5 to 15 minutes) has been found to boost mood.

The light-induced effects of serotonin are triggered by sunlight that goes in through the eye. Sunlight cues special areas in the retina, which triggers the release of serotonin. So, you’re more likely to experience this type of depression in the winter time, when the days are shorter.

Nall, Rachel, RN, BSN, CCRN. “What are the benefits of sunlight?” May 25, 2018. www.healthline.com/health/depression/benefits-sunlight

Laugh (often)

If I don’t laugh I’ll cry. And laughter is the best medicine.

Cliches aside now’s not the time to binge on shows about murder, zombie takeovers, virus invasions or the end of times. Unless of course these apocalyptic shows help you escape from coronavirus anxiety.

From Mayo Clinic’s “Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke.” The benefits of laughter:

Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.

Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.

Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.

Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.

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